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Tech in check: Mediacorp chief commercial and digital officer Parminder Singh

A seasoned business leader, Parminder Singh (pictured) is currently chief commercial and digital officer at Mediacorp, a role which allows him to explore the real and practical synergies between digital and commercial.

Before joining the media company, Singh was managing director Southeast Asia, Middle East & North Africa and India at Twitter. Singh has also held appointments at Google as managing director, display solution sales, Asia Pacific, as well as positions in global companies including Apple and IBM, boasting over 20 years of experience in digital business, sales and marketing.

With digital a part of his DNA, in this edition of Tech in Check, he sits down with Marketing to share his experience in the digital world and what marketers need to think about when it comes to embracing digital in their organisation.

In a previous conversation, Singh admitted that while it is easy to be swayed by new technology in the digital field, be it in B2B or B2C, corporations need to put themselves in the shoes of the clients and the consumers to really stand out. At the same time, he also believes keeping things simple today is vital.

“It’s easy to get fascinated with new technological things, and it’s easy to start speaking in a language which may be alien to customers. So, think about the customers, view everything from his/her lens and keep it simple,” he said.

Marketing: What was your first digital role like? 

Over a decade ago, I was the marketing manager of Apple. I was handling the product launches of several Apple products.

Marketing: What about your biggest tech blunder?

Once, we were launching the new iMac in India. The new beauty was a pristine white work of art with a hemispherical base, aka the sunflower Mac due to its vague likeness to the flower. The event was being held in a hotel near Connaught Place, Delhi. I wanted to emulate the grand spectacle Steve Jobs had put up a few days earlier in the US, though at a smaller scale. One of his tricks included a levitation of the iMac on a platform followed by a 360-degree rotation to draw attention to its beautiful backside.

We discovered a hydraulic lift from the nearby electrical market in Bhagirath Palace, Chandni Chowk. The final dry run was conducted 30 minutes before the unveiling, and we seemed in perfect control… until the hydraulic lift jammed. It just wouldn’t start.

Marketing: How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?

No way could the supplier rush to get a replacement given the Delhi traffic. What happened behind the scenes was that we found a person of modest height (one of the employees of the hydraulic lift supplier) who could fit into the five foot cylinder encasing the lift. The levitation was mimicked by deftly pushing the iMac from underneath by our vertically challenged saviour after getting a cue from the product manager (which was a knock on the top of the frame).

Then he spun around inside the cylinder like a pirouetting ballerina to provide multiple 360 degree views of the iMac. Our man crouched inside in perfect stillness until the end of the presentation. And so, the world’s most talked about machine owed its India launch to the flexibility and spinning ability of a guy from Chandni Chowk and his power of jugaad (the ability to get the work done by hook or by crook)!

Sometimes thinking outside the box requires going inside it!

Marketing: What are some of the common challenges you face with digital today?

The biggest challenge is to be able to filter the signal from the noise and apply the most meaningful technology that adds value to our audience. Today, social media has given everyone the power to get their 15 minutes of fame online. How does one keep abreast of trends and filter out the ones that will have longevity?

Bitcoin is all the rage now – is it here to stay? Can it help media publishers unlock a new way to crowdsource meaningful content and get them to be paid directly and fairly? It remains to be seen. Chatbots were all the rage sometime back.

Will they be the bold new consumer interface or will it be voice based solutions that seem to be the current favourite? The challenge for a digital practitioner is not to get blindly swayed by the hype or ignore a technology once the hype fades.

Marketing: Are there any digital trends which excite you or that you are wary of?

Machine learning and artificial intelligence might hold the key to unearth genuine content and put it in front of the right audience. Media houses will need to make meaningful connections with their audience and understand them better without being intrusive and annoying.

Consumers expect the right content to be delivered to them without the feeling of being stalked.

Machine learning technologies can take advantage of the power of aggregated data and draw inferences that help publishers and audiences alike.

Marketing: Any top tips for marketers and brands embracing digital?

Don’t follow a digital trend because it’s all the vogue. In fact, stay away from blind digitisation.

Today’s consumers and audiences straddle the world of online and offline. Try to mirror their journey, strike your own balance and find your own north-star.

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